Ever since we announced our exciting giveaway contest, it’s been nothing but Kindlemania here at the ‘Gasm. At our weekly meeting down at an undisclosed location near the docks, the site’s contributors couldn’t help but debate just what Jeff Bezos’ dream baby means for the future of the printed word. I won’t lie and say that the conversation wasn’t heated.
Once we managed to calm down and bandage our wounds, it was decided that for Earth Day, it would be worthwhile to run a serious comparison between the new device and the traditional word-delivery system it has been designed to replace. Much has been made on how the Kindle will affect the world of publishing and the content of the printed medium, but by doing this, other, less obvious aspects of the two systems are inevitably ignored. Hopefully, this 10-scenario post will be the first step in correcting this mistake.
Now, in order to conduct this analysis, it fell to me to devise a series of situations and —using state of the art computer software I downloaded illegally from a warez site (don’t worry, I use a Mac and don’t have to worry about bugs) — investigate how in these hypothetical instances a fully-loaded Kindle would compare to its equivalent number of 200 books.
You’ve just graduated from college and have found an exciting new job in the big city! Unfortunately, the only apartment you can afford is on the top floor of an eight-story walk-up. Without the benefit of an elevator, you must carry your entire library up those stairs (with or without the help of friends you’ve conned with the promise of free beer and pizza).
Books: Depending on the kind of literature you prefer (be it cheap romance paperbacks or enormous and expensive limited-edition coffee-table books) — as well as your inclination to either pack a smaller amount of large, heavy boxes or a larger amount of small, lighter ones — owning 200 traditional books will require anywhere from four to eight trips up and down those eight flights of stairs. Given the generally sedentary nature of the average person likely to actually own that many books, this will easily represent the most strenuous physical activity of your life, and though many of you will come away stronger from the experience, others will no doubt perish as the result of this onerous exertion.
Kindle: Can be taken up in one trip, presumably in a box filled with other non-literary appliances and/or items.
Government experimentation has caused the dead to rise up from their cold and lonely graves and stalk the living in search of sweet, nourishing brains. Thanks to some lucky breaks, you find yourself safe inside a secure location with plenty of food and water. Unfortunately, due to the rushed nature of the emergency, a necessary ration of toilet paper was not included amongst your supplies.
Books: Used wisely, the pages from 200 books could easily last you until a solution is found to finally bring an end to the terrible zombie holocaust.
Kindle: Lacking any absorbency, the hard, plastic Kindle is not only going to become unbearably disgusting after just one use, but even with the greatest of care will likely prove highly irritating to that extremely sensitive part of the human anatomy.
You and your neighbors fear that your children may start “experimenting” with “alternative” lifestyles if they are exposed to “ideas” that don’t square with the philosophy espoused in your pastor’s sermons. It’s decided that a good way to stop this from happening is a symbolic public immolation of the texts that contain these dangerous thoughts.
Books: Two hundred books is a small start to save our children, but still enough to start a blazing hot bonfire in the name of family values! Burn, baby, burn!
Kindle: Not only is the plastic shell hard to ignite, but once it is finally lit, the result is a pathetic flame and an unpleasant, possibly toxic smell. Not even worth the bother.
A hot new barista is working behind the counter at your local Starbucks (no, your other local Starbucks). During your order, you sense that he/she is flirting with you. Once your grande hazelnut half-caf non-fat iced latte with nutmeg and cinnamon is in your hands, you decide to sit at a table directly across from the counter with the hopes of continuing the flirtation. So you don’t look like a creepy stalker person, now would be a good time to do some reading.
Books: Here, the impression you make depends entirely on the book you happen to be reading. For example, a 35-year-old man clearly enjoying the latest entry in the TWILIGHT series is most likely going to be judged as an utter douche, while a 24-year-old woman cackling with delight while reading the latest Ann Coulter screed suggests that any intimacy with her will ultimately result in permanent scarring.
Kindle: With a Kindle, on the other hand, you can keep what you’re reading a secret while leaving the impression that you are both a hip consumer of cutting-edge technology and someone with loads of disposable income. That, my friends, just might get you laid.
Despite all your best efforts, the zombies have broken through all of your barriers and you have no choice but to defend yourself. All of your ammunition has been spent, but your will to live is so strong, you’ll throw anything within your grasp if it means another precious second of life.
Books: Assuming you haven’t used all of them as toilet paper by this time, you could last a good 30 seconds heaving them at the ravenous horde of necrotic invaders before they finally crack open your head like a honeydew melon.
Kindle: Use it wisely, because you only got one shot and the zombies are too dead to care if it’s caked in dried feces. I give you five seconds at best.
A lawyer shows up at your door and explains that you had a crazy, long-lost uncle who died alone with a fortune in the high millions. An eccentric bibliophile, he left a clause in his will stipulating that all of his wealth was to be shared amongst his relatives whose entire personal library of books weighed more than they did.
Books: Depending on what you read and how many empty calories you eat, you just might have a shot at some big money.
Kindle: Looks like you’re going to have to keep ordering from the dollar menu a little while longer …
Your eldest child insists, “Reading is so boring!”
Books: Are already the enemy, so they’re not going to be much help.
Kindle: Assuming they’re a little slow, you just might be able to trick them into thinking they’re playing a text-adventure video game.
You’ve just captured the leader of a deadly terrorist organization. You’ve just received official permission from the White House to torture that fucker anyway you want. Unfortunately, Charlie, the guy responsible for bringing the car battery and water tank, is a total screw-up and forgot.
Books: You know what hurts more than a paper cut? A thousand paper cuts.
Kindle: It may have a battery, but if you hooked it up to his testicles, it’d probably feel more pleasurable than painful,
The antique liquor cabinet you bought keeps shaking every time you walk past it.
Books: Out of 200 books, one of them has to be just the right size to wedge in the spot causing uneven wobbling.
Kindle: It might fit, but what are the chances?
You run a book review website and want to up your hit rate. Having dismissed the obvious-pictures-of-naked-women option, you decide your best bet is to have a giveaway.
Books: You might get one or two entries. If you’re lucky …
Kindle: Wow! You’re only six zeroes away from those sweet Perez Hilton numbers!
It’s close, but at 6-4, it looks like owning 200 real books has the edge over the Kindle. Still, given our love for shiny toys, I suspect this has done little to damper your desire for one — no matter how useless it will prove to be once the zombies have taken over the world. —Allan Mott